Fakira looked through her drawers, searching for something to wear. Her first track practice was approaching and she needed something that would pass her father’s inspection. She immediately burst into laughter when she pulled out her old elementary school gym outfit. It was a dark gray, legged leotard with full sleeves, custom made by her mother. Coupled with the calf-length gauchos that went over the bottom and the XL white tee that went over the top, it was a bulky inconvenience that made Fakira the laughing stock of the class. She absolutely hated it and begged her mother to pull her out, but looking back, she was quite fond of the memory. It taught her that Muslim women had options and that they didn’t have to always sit on the sidelines.
Had it been up to her father, Fakira would have spent her gym period in the library studying Quran, but her mother had other plans. Thanks to Laila’s persistence, Fakira was the first of all the Ghazali girls to actually participate in gym. Laila stayed uncomfortably quiet when her husband forbade Aalimah and Sadiqah from “running in mixed company,” but she had had enough by the time Fakira started school.
“Honey, she needs to participate,” Fakira remembered her mother saying. “I think it’s silly you make the girls sit out. They need to know they’re just as capable as everyone else, and if it’s the outfit you’re concerned about, that’s not a problem. I can make her something modest and practical,” she said with a sweet smile.
It was debatable whether the five-pound ensemble counted as practical, but Fakira still appreciated the effort. When Muhammad saw the many hours Laila put into designing and sewing the outfit, he had to say yes. He still wasn’t fond of the idea, but at least she’d be properly covered. And it was hard to resist Laila’s charming, gentle persistence.
“Fakira, what will you be wearing?” Muhammad asked the morning of her first track practice. He stood with his arms folded and a skeptical look on his face. Fakira opened her bag and pulled out a bundle of pink clothing. She opened the bundle to reveal a pair of stretch pants, a pair of knee-length short and a long sleeve tee. She spread the outfit on the coffee table and waited for the verdict.
Muhammad walked around the table as if he needed to approve it from all angles. “Pink, Fakira? Did you have to get such a bright color?”
“I think it’s cute,” Laila said.
“But the attention. She’ll draw too much attention!” he said, concerned.
“Daddy, I searched for something else, but this was on sale. Everything else was too tight or too expensive,” Fakira explained.
Muhammad thought for a second. “I don’t know. My daughter running around in bright pink? And with boys?” he said, sounding dramatic. Laila glanced at the clock. It was nearly time for school. She walked over to the table, picked up the clothes, and handed them to her daughter.
“It’s fine,” she said. “You’ve got to get going. Go get your sisters.” Fakira hurried upstairs before her father could intervene. A few minutes later, she and her sisters came down and headed out the front door.
“Salaam,” they all said.
“Salaam,” Laila said. Muhammad was silent.
After dropping her sisters at school, Aalimah went straight to work. She had been getting a lot more assignments, thanks to all the positive feedback she’d received on her first story. Viewers found it “refreshing to see someone so different yet real and likable,” one of the comments read.
Mrs. Weist was thrilled. She knew she’d taken a gamble hiring Aalimah, and she was happy it was paying off. Not everyone shared in her sentiment, especially Michelle. She had been, arguably, the station’s most popular newscaster, but her popularity was waning. As Aalimah and other new faces gained recognition, she became old news. She wasn’t adjusting well.
“What’s your deal?” Aalimah said one day, tired of Michelle’s blatant disrespect.
“Excuse me? What are you talking about?” Michelle answered, annoyed.
“You’ve had an attitude with me since the day I stepped in the door. I don’t expect you to be my best friend, but I do expect to be respected.”
“Honestly, I’m far too busy to be concerned about whether or not you feel respected. Unlike you, I don’t just do fluff pieces, so I’ve got a lot of work to do.” She stood up from her seat to walk by, but Aalimah stepped in the way.
“Just answer me this: What do you have against me? What have I done to you?” Aalimah asked.
Michelle looked Aalimah up and down before answering. “It’s simple, really. I don’t like your kind.”